Go wild: print your own animal adventure

From lions and tigers to giraffes and bears, create a fun at-home paper safari with Canon's Creative Park and learn more about conservation with the whole family.
Three children playing with papercraft hand puppets of a giraffe, a hippopotamus and a bear.

Exploring the animal kingdom can lead to endless imaginative playtime for little ones, and it's the perfect combination of enjoyable and educational. If you're looking for an activity that will spark creativity and help teach your kids about the world's cutest and mightiest creatures, why not try papercrafting?

Canon's Creative Park is a free online resource full of downloadable, animal-inspired papercraft projects suitable for a fun family day inside. All you need to create your own pop-up safari is a printer and some keen crafters. From cheetahs and koalas to red pandas and emperor penguins, there's a variety of animals from around the globe and plenty of fun to be had as the whole family learns more about the natural world.

Blogger Fariba Soetan lives in London with her husband and three children. Here, she shares how her family used Creative Park and a Canon PIXMA TS8350 Series printer for a wildly entertaining animal adventure.

1. Collect your craft supplies

A series of templates of papercraft projects printed on A4 sheets, being passed around by a family.

Creative Park's papercraft projects are simple to make and don't require special tools. All you need is scissors, glue, space to work and some eager young crafters.

You won't need many tools to get started with your stay-at-home safari – enough pairs of scissors for everyone to get involved, a printer, paper and some glue sticks or sticky tape is all that's required.

"For the more complicated animals, you probably need more pointy scissors as opposed to kids' ones, as there are some really small bits that you need to get around," says Fariba, who recommends that adults offer children assistance when cutting around the designs.

Every template on the Creative Park app1 or website has a suggested paper to use and it's best to follow that recommendation for best results. Good quality paper such as Plus Glossy and Matte Photo Paper are great options for vibrant animal printouts. Fariba also uses the Canon PIXMA TS8350 Series printer for clear and vivid prints. "We ordered thicker paper, so it wasn't like normal printer paper. When folded, it would stay," she says.

2. Select your templates

A mother and two children at a glass table gathered round a laptop.

Creative Park has heaps of variety, so kids should be able to find a template of their favourite animal that has the right level of complexity. "There are a huge number of animals that you can make," says Fariba, who runs the Mixed.Up.Mama blog.

A whole family sat in a living room cutting out paper templates.

Once you've got a project in mind, it's time to print – and if the whole family gets involved, you can create your safari in much less time.

There are all sorts of templates to choose from on Creative Park. This means kids can pick an animal to craft that really resonates with them, whether that's an exotic beast or a critter from closer to home.

All you need to do is use the Creative Park App or visit the Creative Park website, download your favourite paper designs and then print them via your home printer. Choosing different templates with the right skill levels ensures the whole family can have fun working on their designs together.

"We visited the website, and the girls went through some of the different animals, with me helping them choose according to the difficulty level. The girls were really enthusiastic about it and are of the age where they each have a favourite animal," says Fariba, whose daughters are six, eight and 10.

"As parents, you'll know your own children and what they're capable of. There's a huge variety of animals to choose from," she continues.

"I'd say choose something that's within their concentration span, and if the older ones want to keep going with a more complex template like the cheetah, which mine did, they could.

3. Cut and craft your paper animals

A family cutting out papercraft animal shapes.

The hand puppets Fariba's family decided to craft have options for customisation, so each one receives a creative personal touch.

A girl cutting out a cheetah-spotted shape printed on A4 paper.

More difficult templates, like this papercraft cheetah, can provide an engaging activity for older children.

One of the most exciting parts of the papercrafting process is folding and gluing your animal together to bring your safari or puppet show to life. Fariba thinks this can make for a brilliant weekend activity for families.

"It's a nice little activity that draws on a whole bunch of different skills – they're developing their fine motor skills by cutting and pasting, using concentration and putting something together in a 3D shape."

"On a Saturday, when you're looking for something to do and you're inside, it allows them to use their creativity a bit," she says. "They can be on their own, but you can be around having a cup of tea, available to help if they have questions. It's really nice for them to get into something, and they're able to play with the animals afterwards.

"With the hand puppets, there are different options for eyes, hats and accessories. So the children really enjoyed choosing each accessory, what the eyes would be like and making each one look a little bit different, which was cute."

4. Have some fun

A paper hippopotamus hand puppet on a round table next to a Canon PIXMA printer.

As well as being great fun, Fariba says that this activity also ties into what some of her daughters are learning at school. "At their level, they're learning about 3D shapes both in year one and year three, so it kind of plays into that."

Three small hands hold up papercraft animal puppets from behind a large blue sofa in a family living room. To the left of the frame, a large rabbit can be seen.

Fariba's children decided to put on a puppet show with their animal characters – and even got the family rabbit involved.

Whether you've printed and crafted a whole host of wild animals from the plains of Africa, a European woodland wonderland or a funny and creative puppet show, playtime is a great opportunity for children to stretch their creativity.

Fariba's children opted to create a show incorporating a family pet and enjoyed imagining what noises their animal creations would make. "They wanted to have a little puppet show and use them to play with the rabbit and all sorts of things," says Fariba. "We talked about what their animals would be called, which they were enthusiastic about, and they attempted to make the sounds a giraffe would make – which were questionable!"

5. Learn through play

Three children behind a blue sofa, holding paper hand puppets and smiling.

Creating animal-themed papercrafts can be a great way to encourage kids to engage with and learn more about the natural world.

Tackling subjects like wildlife conservation can be daunting for parents, but with an interactive activity like this one, it's simple to weave in enjoyable learning. From creating animal quizzes, telling animal stories with papercraft characters or discussing the real-life habitats and habits of your kids' creations, nature education can easily become a part of paper play.

"We talked about whether some of these animals would be found together because there was a panda, a hippo, a tiger and a giraffe for the hand puppets. So we had a discussion about whether they would all be found in the same habitat," Fariba says.

It's also a great way to talk about more sensitive topics like the circle of life. It also gives parents a great opportunity to talk about why some animals look a certain way to be able to hide from predators or reach their food source.

To get your own family involved, head over to Creative Park and be inspired by an endless array of animal templates – perfect for kids with a creative streak and a love for the natural world.

You can even create your own wildlife park in your garden by taking your paper creations outside and placing the animals in their most suitable habitats, under trees, in long grass or on rocks.

Written by Lorna Dockerill

  1. If your printer is not supported, check the Creative Park website.

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